By C’Loni Bailey, Electronics Manager at Bookmans Mesa

An interesting thing about comic conventions in Arizona is that despite how large a city Phoenix is, the geek community is relatively small and insular. Everyone knows everyone else, or at least knows someone who knows someone who knows everyone else. Held on December 12-14, 2014 at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Phoenix Comicon Fan Fest is a winter pop culture convention organized by the same folks who run the exceptional Phoenix Comicon in summer. Although I have worked the Bookmans booth at Phoenix Comicon, PCC Fan Fest was my first experience having a table of my own at a convention to exhibit my costuming work.

Phoenix Comicon Fan Fest

It quickly became apparent how small the local geek community is when I discovered my Artist Alley neighbors were Mike Syfritt of Mad Propps, a local prop maker with whom I was familiar but had never met, as well as Bookmans own Jeremy Fisher, the talented artist/writer of the web comic, Major Tom Jr. Former Bookmans manager Tavis Maiden was present, exhibiting his Tenko King web comic, as well as many other local artists, authors and cosplayers. It was wonderful display of local talent and a joy to see so many people I know and admire in one place!

Holding a convention in a stadium provided a unique experience. The space seemed larger than it was with the thousands of stadium seats stretching above us. The stadium lighting was extraordinary bright and the aisles were wider than at the Phoenix Convention Center allowing for less congestion, especially for cosplayers posing for photos.

Though it was wonderful to see everyone, I did have concerns. Organizers announced the event just 2 months prior to the Fest, leaving little time to prepare. An invite-only policy for vendors and artists left me waiting until the last minute to get product together. As a first time exhibitor I was not planning to exhibit anything until Phoenix Comicon 2015, so when I received the invite to Phoenix Fan Fest in October, I scrambled to finish product in time. Some people also expressed concern about the stadium roof possibly leaking during the rainy day, but there were no reports of damage to anyone’s merchandise. As a Fest-goer, I wondered if there were enough rooms for panels, if those panels appealed to attendees and if there was enough star power.

As a smaller convention with less fan fare than Phoenix Comicon, the turn out was slow at first, with Friday seeing only a small crowd. The Fest picked up considerably on Saturday and Sunday. I wondered if the December date hurt Fest sales and attendance. With Fan Fest being held only a couple weeks before Christmas, some of the con-goers had already spent their discretionary money on gifts by the time they found out the con was happening, or maybe they hadn’t factored Fan Fest into their plans and were shopping elsewhere.

Despite the challenges of the first year convention, I have high hopes for Phoenix Comicon Fan Fest. With this one in the bag, Fan Fest organizers will employ better scheduling for future Fests and plan more panels and events for attendees. Phoenix Comicon Fan Fest has the potential to turn into a great fall/winter convention that is bolstered by a talented and enthusiastic local artistic geek community.